For the last few years, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families has intervened in lives of Massachusetts families at an alarming rate. Most of these families cannot afford to hire attorneys. Fortunately, in Massachusetts there is a right to counsel for parents and children in state intervention cases. Unfortunately, there are not enough certified attorneys who have the time and training to zealously represent all these families in need. The Children and Family Law Division (CAFL) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) is inviting members of the private bar to apply for admission to the CAFL Trial Panel. We are looking to increase the number of attorneys handling state intervention cases (typically referred to as “care and protection” or “termination of parental rights” cases) in the Massachusetts Juvenile Court. Because the shortage is most acute in western Massachusetts, we are particularly interested in applicants who are able to accept CAFL appointments in those courts.
Attorneys who are interested in pursuing this opportunity can find more information about the training and the link to submit your application here.
Here is some information that might help attorneys decide whether they are interested in joining this panel of litigators.
- Certification Training – We will be presenting a training in Springfield beginning March 30, 2020. Successful completion of the training will enable attorneys to be certified to accept assignments in state intervention cases. The training will take place on March 30-31, April 6-7, and April 13-14. Because this is New England, we have reserved April 2 as a snow date! One-day mock hearings will be scheduled on April 28, 29 and 30, 2020. If selected, participants must keep all three mock hearing dates open until assigned to a specific date and place for the mock hearing. The mock hearings will be located throughout the state. The training will be open to attorneys of all levels of experience, but trial experience is preferred.
- Assignment – Care and Protection/Termination of Parental Rights cases begin, most often, with a petition being filed ex parte by the Department of Children and Families. The attorney’s responsibilities for the case begin immediately upon assignment, as he or she must prepare for a potential emergency custody hearing to take place within 72 hours of any ex parte order (the “72-hour hearing”). These cases frequently continue to be court involved for 15 months or more. Children Requiring Assistance cases (or status offenses) are usually concluded within 15 months.
- Compensation – Private attorneys are paid at the rate of $55/hour for their work on Care and Protection/Termination of Parental Rights cases.
- Expectations Regarding Performance – Attorneys are required to abide by CAFL’s performance standards and meet other requirements set forth in CPCS’s Assigned Counsel Manual, found at https://www.publiccounsel.net/assigned-counsel-manual/.
- Support – Each new member of CAFL’s private attorney panel is assigned a mentor. The mentor is available to support the attorney for the first couple of years of practice, to introduce the attorney to court personnel and others, to assist in learning local practices, to attend initial court hearings, and to provide other support and assistance.
CPCS is committed to ensuring that the panel of attorneys accepting CAFL assignments is sensitive to the diversity of the client population it serves. We will give preference to attorneys who commit to practicing in western Massachusetts and to attorneys who submit completed applications by Friday, February 14, 2020. We encourage interested attorneys to apply early and not wait until the deadline.